3-Minute Interview: Maggie Markham

The Bowditch Middle School teacher coached the school’s sixth-graders to learn vocabulary words for the WordMasters Challenge, a national competition that 230,000 students participate in annually. The sixth-graders placed first out of 424 school teams in the year’s first of three WordMasters tests.

How does the WordMasters Challenge work? It’s a national vocabulary program that sends out 25 vocabulary words three different times in the year. Those words are being learned by sixth-graders all over the country. And then they give the kids a test that uses the words in analogies, to see if they not only understand the meaning of the words, but also how they relate to other words.

Give us an example. Two of the words they’ve learned this year are taciturn and voluble. So the analogy might be, “Few is to many as taciturn is to ‘blank.’” And that’s actually one of the easier ones.

How did you teach them the words? One thing they do is draw a picture describing the word. So for example, if the words was panache, on the front of the card they might draw a movie star walking down the red carpet with great panache.

They did well? They astounded me with how well they did. I knew they’d done well, but when I got the newsletter saying they did the best in the nation, I was really pleased, and so were they. And they’ve just taken the second [of the three tests], and they did even better than the first. In the first test I had three students get perfect scores, and in this second set, there were eight perfect scores.

So what happens next? The third set of words come in April, and the test is in May. I wouldn’t be surprised if they place pretty high.

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